Leach, players on Day One = mutual admiration

LEACH POINTS THE WAY

PULLMAN – New Washington State football coach Mike Leach had plenty of good things to say about his players after the team's first spring practice Thursday, and players were quick to return the compliments.

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"Coach Leach is a great coach, a great guy. We all look up to him," junior John Fullington said.

"Leach is so strict. Everyone's bought into him already," senior Wade Jacobson said. "Things are rolling."

Rolling where, Wade?

"Everyone knows where we're going."

Where's that?

"Bowl game," said the offensive lineman who has never redshirted and recently received a medical waiver from the NCAA to return for his second senior season.

Hope springs eternal every spring on every college campus, of course. It is worth nothing, however, that Leach has gone to a bowl game every season during his 10 years as a head coach (all at Texas Tech). Every season.

The Cougars return a solid core of veterans off a team that doubled its win total from two to four last year and lost two other games by three points.

"It's finally that time (to win)," Jacobson said. "We all know it. We're busting our butts in the weight room, school, everything."

Fullington said the team's attitude is "very positive. Everyone's excited."

Leach's first practice lasted nearly three hours in near-freezing weather. Players said they welcomed the extra work because of all the new schemes and techniques being taught. Leach said he introduced about a third of the offense on the first day.

TUEL CONFERS WITH NEW COACH

"Right now, everyone's eyes are wide open; deer in the headlights," Jacobson said. "There's so much stuff being thrown at them. We've just got to get settled down and get the rhythm going again.

"It's a whole new system, a whole new everything for us. The O-line, we're not kick-stepping anymore. We look like four big DBs (defensive backs) out there backpedaling. It's a little different, but hey, it'll work. It's proven for them."

Senior safety Tyree Toomer said Thursday's practice rates "up there with one of the best" early spring practices he's experienced with the Cougars.

"At times, it was a little unorganized in terms of lining up, because we're all new," Toomer said.

Fullington and Jacobson have both started at offensive tackle and guard at WSU. Leach and his all-new staff are looking at numerous players at multiple positions, and some players might not have their positions finalized until the fall.

Jacobson's situation is complicated by the fact that WSU plans to keep him out contact drills this spring to give his surgically repaired back more time to recover.

"I haven't felt this good since high school," Jacobson said. "I'm lifting every day and running."

Leach warned the Cougars when he was hired in December that they would be running far more in practice than ever before. That proved true Thursday, but players said they ran a lot more in the winter than under Paul Wulff's staff, and they held up well in the first practice.

"I thought it (practice) was really good," Leach said. "We had guys bouncing around good. We didn't have too many ‘hesitators.' I thought the enthusiasm was great. There were some explosive plays on both sides."

Leach believes players can develop more explosiveness in their legs and help prevent injuries by running in sand, so a giant sand pit has been installed at the west end of the Rogers Field outdoor practice facility.

Jacobson hasn't gone through any sand drills yet, but he said he's ready, though perhaps not for what Leach has in mind."I'm gonna throw my barbecue in my locker next time we come out," he joked.

The Cougs are off today and then back in action Saturday.

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